- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

Mike Sweetney's days with the Georgetown Hoyas may be numbered.
Faced with being the brightest star on perhaps the worst Georgetown team in 30 years, the Hoyas' power forward remains loyal to this season's apparent lost cause even though vast riches await him in June's NBA Draft. The Hoyas have seven games left in the regular season.
"Right now, I'm keeping my mind on the season, and I'm not worried about next year or nothing like that," Sweetney said. "I want to play basketball and make sure that I'm not sitting at home during the Big East tournament and I'm in New York, not in Oxon Hill."
The way Georgetown (10-10, 2-7 Big East) has performed this season, Sweetney might have to forget about Madison Square Garden. Georgetown is seventh and last in the Big East's West Division. The top six teams qualify for the Big East tournament.
The Hoyas have lost six straight and nine of their past 11, and there are no signs that the team is getting better. The Hoyas haven't won a road game (0-7). They lose to good and bad teams alike despite Sweetney's presence.
This team has the potential to finish with a worse record than the 1972-73 team that went 12-14 in John Thompson's first season as coach. With seven games remaining, Georgetown may be hard-pressed to go 2-5 the rest of the way, especially with three road games and three home games against No.7, Pittsburgh, No.10 Notre Dame and No.17 Syracuse.
Does Sweetney return to the Hilltop for his senior season and risk deja vu or does he declare himself eligible for the NBA Draft and cash in? Some people with ties to the NBA think he should take the money.
"He won't improve his draft status by coming back next year he can only hurt it," one scout from a Western Conference team said. "It's a weak draft. He's a lottery pick somewhere between numbers nine and 12."
Because the NBA slots salaries depending where a player is chosen in the draft, Sweetney, who is the Big East's third-leading scorer (22.1 points) and second-leading rebounder (10.1), is looking at $6million to $8million for a three-year deal. Most NBA players really break the bank with their second contract.
The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder has an out. As long as he doesn't sign with an agent, Sweetney can declare himself eligible for the draft, attend all the pre-draft camps, and withdraw his name if he thinks he is not ready to compete in the NBA.
"Mike's a different breed he's a throwback from the past," said Billy Lanier, Sweetney's former high school coach at Oxon Hill. "He could be thinking that maybe he can bring [Georgetowns] program back. As far as I know, he's coming back for his senior season and is enjoying Georgetown."
If Sweetney's love affair with the Hoyas hasn't already ended, the outlook for next season isn't very bright. And he'll be forced to do even more. Frustrated by double- and triple-teams this season because of his teammates' inability to score, Sweetney can expect to take another pounding inside next season.
When this season mercifully ends, the Hoyas will lose all their post players to graduation, which leaves Sweetney and untested incoming 6-10 freshman Darian Townes as Georgetown's only legitimate inside players. Townes is a rebounder and shot blocker and may provide no relief for Sweetney on the offensive end.
Under that dismal scenario, Sweetney is risking injury and stands to lose millions by returning to school.
Right now, the NBA scouts like what they see. At every game, three to 15 scouts are in the building to watch him operate in the paint.
Sweetney has all the tools the NBA is looking for. He has a big body, soft hands, good feet and is a relentless rebounder. On occasion, he has shown decent range on his jump shot, but for Georgetown just to stay competitive this season, Sweetney is forced to do all the dirty work in the lane.
"He could stand to lose six to eight pounds," said talent evaluator Marty Blake, who is the NBA's director of scouting services. "I've seen him play. Would he be drafted? Sure. Can he play in the NBA? Eventually. He won't have three guys guarding him every night."
Sweetney could be a top-10 pick if he comes out. Darko Milicic, a 17-year-old 7-footer from Yugoslavia, will be the first big man chosen, probably as the second pick after LeBron James.
Of college big men entering the draft, only Kansas' Nick Collison; Mississippi State's Mario Austin, who is a junior; Xavier's David West and perhaps Alabama's Erwin Dudley are likely to be taken ahead of Sweetney.
"There is no such thing as a weak draft unless you make a mistake," Blake said. "Teams are drafting for the future, two or three years down the pike. The fact that players enter the draft is not a free ticket to Chicago [the NBA's invitation-only Moody Bible College camp and the last camp before the draft]. It's not germane to Sweetney. He'll be given an invitation to Chicago. He can always pull his name out of the draft."

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